Last Men Standing

This game was always going to be a case of ‘Last Men Standing’, and with the rejuvenated Heaslip and D’arcy adding to the list of those unable to take part, that has come to pass.  With that in mind Deccie has done pretty much all he can to get his best side on the pitch. 

The tight five – hugely impressive so far – remains the same and in the back row Peter O’Mahony replaces Jamie Heaslip directly.   It’s the right call.  There are plenty who would have liked to have seen Sean O’Brien move to 8, but he has little experience there, and has never looked comfortable at the back of the scrum.  Besides, he’s come of age as a Genuine Openside (that’s one phrase we’ll be hearing a lot less of from now on) on this tour.  Peter O’Mahony played a reasonable amount at No.8 towards the back end of this season, and looked the part.  His innate footballing ability lends itself well to the role, and it could be his best position.

D’arcy is replaced by Paddy Wallace.  No doubt Kidney thought hard about giving the ROG-Sexton axis a go from the start, or giving the tantalising, if flawed, Earls-BOD partnership another go after a more-miss-than-hit showing in the first test.  It looks like he made the best choice by picking a natural 12 playing in a position he’s most comfortable rather than shoe-horning Rog into the team players into unfamiliar roles.

That said, it does rather show up the folly of leaving Wallace at home in the first place.  Paddy arrives fresh off the Mediterranean beaches, so it’s asking a lot of him to replicate his brilliant end-of-season form.  His last competitive action was when he played (superbly) in the Heineken Cup final, which is over a month ago now – though he did play the full game against the Barbarians –  so to expect him to bound off the long haul flight and pick up where he left off seems a tall order.  Why Kidney brought Darren Cave when he had cover at 13 in the form of Earls, and left his only natural alternative to D’arcy (excluding McFadden, who he obviously does not see as a 12) is anybody’s guess.  It looked a strange call at the time, and looks stranger again now.

The good news is that Keet Earls is back.  With Tommy Bowe injured and Earls missing in the last test, Ireland have lacked cutting edge out wide.  Earls, of course, has made no secret of his desire to play centre.  It would be nice to have given him the chance to further his claims to the outside centre berth in this match, but with our best wingers injured, needs must.  Trimble and McFadden are honest, hard-working players, but they don’t have the strike running or finishing ability Earls does.  His presence out wide will make a difference.

New Zillund have injury concerns of their own.   Kieran Read and Deeeen Cadah are injured, and McCaw has been moved to No.8, where he is notably less effective.  If (big if) Ireland can reproduce the breakdown intensity of last week and bring a little more dynamism out wide (I’m looking at you, Keet) they can once again be in the shake-up at the business end of the match.

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7 Comments

  1. Cabhan

     /  June 21, 2012

    Whilst I agree that SOB has been performing superbly well at 7, he is also a great and proven 8. To say he has little experience there and POM does is ridiculous. He got 2 consecutive MOTM awards while playing there in the European Cup 2011. POM is a great prospect but still very raw. He is full of aggression and will hopefully be around for years to come, but for me he still has some developing to do.
    Do you really think they should have picked Earls at 13 again? BOD and Earls did not look any way settled as a defensive unit in the first test. No doubt hes had some good games in a green jersey at 13 but if BOD is fit, that’s his spot. I agree that Wallace should have been brought in earlier, but I still think hes the best option for this game.
    The defence as a whole was superb last week, so fingers crossed if we can manage that again on Sat, we’ve got a massive chance of finally beating them. To achieve that without POC, Ferris and Bowe is almost unthinkable.
    Come on Ireland!

    • @Cabhan I think you’ve misunderstood us a bit on the centres. As per paragraph three, we reckon PWal and BOD are the best choice of centres. I wouldn’t totally write off the BOD-Earls pairing as a combo just yet, but for now we’re best served with Earls on the wing.

  2. P White

     /  June 21, 2012

    The main issue with no natural 8 on the pitch is the scrum. The 8 dictates the hit and when he focuses and packs down properly, Heaslp is quality at it. With McCaw playng 8 for NZ, the potential for free kicks due to early engagements is huge,

    I suspect we will see O’Brien packing down at 8 for Irish put-ins, certainly in the NZ half. O’Mahony is not an off-the-base 8 while O;Brien is a superb ball carrier in that situation. It does not look like a very balanced backrow but then again, neither does the NZ 6-7-8. Is this the first time in a major rugby international that there will not be a number 8 on the pitch??

  3. Bob

     /  June 22, 2012

    A question for everyone, has Earls defensive game improved? As a Munster fan I was under the impression he was one of our most consistent in regards to defense this year, coming up with big hits. Thought he was solid in centre during 6 nations but I’ve noticed alot of comments in the press about him being a weak tackler and won’t be exposed now that moved to the wing. Is it I just watch too many Munster games, at a loss

    • Defence has improved, no question. If you look at his defensive performances in the Six Nations versus where they were in the World Cup, it looks like it was something he really targeted. Any comments that he is still a defensive liability in midfield are lazy nd ill-informed! This has generally been a coming of age season for Earls, not only in defence but in terms of his play with ball in hand too. He started it a finisher, but now he’s a proper footballer.

  4. Megweya

     /  June 23, 2012

    Just seen full game from last week.
    Liam Toland mentioned (72 min) Ryan pointed BOD forward 3 yards after RobK’s kick landed on halfway after Dagg’s shoulder-charge. What he didn’t mention is that the ref a few moments later can be heard saying “You’ve already asked for the posts”.
    If BOD had gone back to the halfway with the ball for the kick, he & JS would probably not tried for goal & would have kicked for touch. With the line-out going so well in the last quarter the 2 cranky kicks could have stood back in the pocket from the line-out/maul & given Reddan 2 options for a dg to lead with 5 min to go v 14 men & possession to recover at a kick-off.

    Also at 52 min just after ROG comes on, JS kicks a penalty to touch and clearly expects to line up at 10. BOD points in a very parent-like way to stand at 13 – Heaslip & SOB turn their heads towards the spat and RobK clearly hears it all. I could be wrong but JS seems to say to BOD “I’m the 10”.
    We all know that ROG can be decidedly grumpy at the age of 35 if he doesn’t get his way but JS seems to be just as cussed at a far younger age.
    When whoever the poor fecker is that comes along to take JS’s shirt in 8-10 years (probably someone younger than u-20 Hanrahan!) that lucky individual will get the full grumpy old man routine from a mid-30 JS who will not only have picked up some game management tricks from ROG during their combative years, but also had a long-term masterclass in how to be exceptionally irritating to your successor.

    That said, I worship them both – ROG for his key role in Triple Crown & GS teams and JS for HC triumphs & future glories with Ireland.
    Irish rugby has to have its flyhalf rivalries as grit in the oyster – ROG/JS, DHumph/ROG, Ward/Campbell.

    • We’ve said it before ourselves – while everyone is at pains to point out the differences between Sexton and ROG, they can be very similar at times. They’re both headstrong, cranky generals on the pitch. Maybe you have to be wired a bit differently to be an international 10.

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